Sometimes, the most memorable part of an overseas trip is not what you think it will be. Instead, a random, unexpected and fleeting observation may make a greater impression on you than all your planned sightseeing put together.
Such a thing happened on my three-week visit this month to the US and Canada with my husband and mother. The purpose of the trip was mainly to visit my brother and his wife, who live in Bellevue, near Seattle in Washington. On the way there, we stopped off in Honolulu, and after nine days in Bellevue, we went on to Canada.
We were in Vancouver for four nights before our Rocky Mountaineer train trip to Banff. We planned to do some shopping, view the city from the Vancouver Lookout, and take the ferry across the water to Lonsdale Quay, North Vancouver—mainly for the ferry ride itself and its famous views of skylines and mountains.
A man at the desk of our hotel had suggested we catch a bus from Lonsdale Quay to Lynn Valley, where you can cross a suspension bridge, built in 1912 to swing across the Lynn Canyon 50m below. You can read more about the canyon here.
Canadians walk a lot, and their response at all times is that something is “just a short walk” or “just round the corner”. This may turn out to be four kilometres “round the corner”, however.
My mother is a healthy 74-year-old, but naturally, she can’t walk as far as a younger person. On the first bus, we went a stop too far, caught another back, and discovered the walk to the scenic area was a kilometre from there. So we took another bus that got us closer to the canyon
To get to the bridge, you alight in a residential street, and Lynn Canyon is really only a short walk away (perhaps 0.3km), hidden at the end of a marked road.
As the bus drove away, a woman in a big SUV pulled up at the intersection in front of us. She was flapping her hands around—at us, it seemed—and talking animatedly on her mobile phone. She then left her vehicle running at the intersection and got out of the car.
“Be careful, there’s a bear in the street!” she said. “Walk away now. Walk away quietly.”
She pointed to a suburban garden about 15 metres from us with an alleyway next to it. There we saw an enormous wild black bear.
Our natural inclination was first to freeze, then to take photos. She urged us to walk away in the direction of the bridge though, which we did. At the same time, the bear began ambling away down the alley—but he stopped for a moment, and looked back over his shoulder at us, as if to say, “I know you’re there”.
Later, we talked to a ranger who said bears were often sighted roaming through the suburbs, and most of the time they were OK, as long as you didn’t follow them or scare them. Apparently, they usually try to get away from people, although the woman in the SUV told us there had been several instances lately of an “aggressive bear” in the neighbourhood.
This sighting so close to us was the highlight of our trip—so unexpected, so astounding, all over in a couple of minutes.
Oh, and the bridge and views of Lynn Canyon were great too.